Franklin's Gull Life History


Habitat Lakes and PondsNests in marshes and along inland lakes. Winters along coast in bays, estuaries, and along sandy beaches.Back to top


Food OmnivoreInsects, earthworms, fish, mice, garbage, seeds.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Floating

Nest Description

A floating platform of vegetation, placed in thick reeds above water. Nests in colonies.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:1-4 eggs
Egg Description:Greenish brown with dark splotches.
Condition at Hatching:Semiprecocial with eyes open. Covered in down. Able to stand within a day, but usually remain in nest for three weeks.
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Behavior Ground ForagerForages while walking or swimming. Forages in dense flocks. Follows plows. Catches flying insects on the wing.Back to top


Conservation DecliningFranklin's Gull populations declined throughout their range by almost 3% per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 78% according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. In the U.S., declines were over 6% per year during that same period, which amounts to a 96% decline. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates between 315,608-990,864 continental breeding birds and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. The species rates an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Franklin's Gull is listed as Common Bird in Steep Decline on the 2014 State of the Birds Report, but is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List. These birds depend on extensive prairie marshes for breeding, and entire colonies may shift sites from year to year depending on water levels. Once threatened by habitat loss due to large-scale drainage projects and the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, this species has regained numbers with the creation of large wetlands, mainly on protected national wildlife refuges. Colony shifts continue to occur, however, influenced by drought and fluctuating water levels.Back to top


Burger, Joanna and Michael Gochfeld. 2009. Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Kushlan, J. A., M. J. Steinkamp, K. C. Parsons, J. Capp, M. A. Cruz, M. Coulter, I. Davidson, L. Dickson, N. Edelson, R. Elliott, R. M. Erwin, S. Hatch, S. Kress, R. Milko, S. Miller, K. Mills, R. Paul, R. Phillips, J. E. Saliva, W. Sydeman, J. Trapp, J. Wheeler and K. Wohl (2002). Waterbird conservation for the Americas: The North American waterbird conservation plan, version 1. Washington, DC, USA. 

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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